The Anaheim Police Department has acknowledged in new documents that it uses surveillance devices known as Dirtboxes — plane-mounted stingrays — on aircraft flying above the Southern California city that is home to Disneyland, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Anaheim Police Department have owned the Dirtbox since 2009 and a ground-based stingray since 2011, and may have loaned out the equipment to other cities across Orange County in the nearly seven years it has possessed the equipment.
“This cell phone spying program — which potentially affects the privacy of everyone from Orange County’s 3 million residents to the 16 million people who visit Disneyland every year — shows the dangers of allowing law enforcement to secretly acquire surveillance technology,” says Matt Cagle, technology and civil liberties policy attorney for ACLU-NC
Stingrays and Dirtboxes are mobile surveillance systems that impersonate a legitimate cell phone tower in order to trick mobile phones and other mobile devices in their vicinity into connecting to them and revealing their unique ID and location. Stingrays emit a signal that is stronger than that of other cell towers in the vicinity in order to force devices to establish a connection with them. Stingrays don’t just pick up the IDs of targeted devices, however. Every phone within range will contact the system, revealing their ID.
The use of stingrays by local law enforcement agencies has been widespread for many years. But the use of the more invasive Dirtboxes has largely been limited to federal law enforcement, though at least two large cities were known before to be using them…Subsequent news reports revealed that Los Angeles and Chicago local police departments possessed Dirtboxes as well. Anaheim is the smallest city known to have one.
Dirtbags using dirtboxes. Something poetic about that, I guess.